Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Righteous Gentiles

Khaled Abdelwahhab is set to become the first Arab Muslim to be honored as a "righteous gentile" at Yom HaShoah. Abdelwahhab protected dozens of Jews in his compound during the German occupation of Tunisia.

Obviously, heroes like Mr. Abdelwahhaib deserve our respect and honor. But speaking more broadly, I hope this becomes an opportunity to bridge a gap between Jews and Arab Muslims.
Yad Vashem has so far honored 21,700 men and women with the Righteous designation. Among them are 60 Muslims, all from the Balkans, but none are Arab. As a follow-up to his research, Satloff is working with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to organize a conference in Morocco on the Shoah's impact on North African nations.
Satloff said in a phone call from Jerusalem, where he was visiting, that he hoped that his book and recognition of Abdelwahab by Yad Vashem would stimulate both Jews and Arabs to look at the Holocaust in "a different way, beyond the purely European narrative."

In addition to the dramatic Boukris story, Satloff's investigations showed that there were other individual Arabs who aided their Jewish neighbors, but, as in Europe, they represented a small minority of the population.

"The majority of Arabs, as the people in occupied Europe, were indifferent," he said. "A regrettably large minority of Arabs collaborated with the Axis powers. Many served as guards at forced labor camps, helped the SS hunt down Jews and even fought in the German army."

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Wiesenthal Center, urged that the deeds of Abdelwahab and other compassionate Arabs become "part of both the Jewish and Arab collective memories."

To the current Muslim rulers and media who denigrate and deny the Holocaust, Abdelwahab's deeds send a different message, Cooper said.

"If you deny the Shoah, you also deny that there were noble Arabs and other Muslims, those who put their lives on the line to rescue Jews."

When the President of Iran denies the Holocaust, he also denies the heroism of Khaled Abdelwahhab and every other human being--of all religions and creeds--who decided that they could not stand passively while their neighbors were being systematically exterminated. Far more than anything Mahmoud Ahmadinejad can offer, this man represents a legacy that the entire Arab and Muslim world can learn of and be proud of.

Via Opinio Juris

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